RogerBW's Blog

Thirsty Meeples July 2023 26 August 2023

Back to the boardgame café.

To start, Diamant/Incan Gold, which I've never taught before (and only very rarely played with the physical bits). The cardboard chests were in very poor shape, something we see quite a bit here with popular games that get heavy use. I still had a good time, but I think it would be better with more than three players.

The main event of the evening, Votes for Women – which is very much a theme that interests me, but fell rather flat, for several reasons.

First, and I suppose this is inevitable with any card-driven wargame right back to Twilight Struggle, is what I call the historian's irk. A few cards have prerequisites, but mostly you can just play an event when you want to. But, well, Sojourner Truth or Elizabeth Cady Stanton didn't pop up out of nowhere; they acted when they did, and they had the effect that they did, because of the context in which they were acting.

Second, having a "Suffragist" player and an "Opposition" player reduces the very complex arguments to two sides, and gives them both human faces. What about the splits among the suffragists over whether black people should be allowed to vote? Can there really be said to have been a concerted "opposition" rather than a bunch of individuals defending their own privilege? I realise that a more realistic game would be vastly longer and more complex, and the idea is to give a quick introduction to the period and some of the issues, but it felt to me too simple to be useful – perhaps, to be fair, because I'm already broadly familiar with the history.

Third, there's a two-stage process for victory: get enough markers in Congress to get the Nineteenth Amendment passed, and then get enough states to ratify it. If Congress doesn't pass it, the Opposition straightforwardly wins, and the Opposition player went all-out on that, largely abandoning the battleground of the states in favour of the sure victory. That's fair enough as a strategy, but the process of getting those Congress markers into or out of play is inevitably luck-based, and I was reminded of London Dread which we played some years ago – it's all very well to say "build up your pool of dice and rerolls so that you can have a better chance of victory", but if the dice don't cooperate, it feels as though your win or loss wasn't really your own doing after all.

Also calling your orange pieces "red", particularly when there are actual red pieces in the game, just irritates me.

I wouldn't be utterly opposed to playing this again, but I didn't enjoy it much.

Timeline Twist, the new iteration on Timeline, was quite divisive. It's fully cooperative, and you're trying to build out the timeline (in order forwards and backwards) from a random starting point. And… well, it's not Timeline and it's not meant to be, but it felt extremely random and arbitrary, to the extent that on most turns I didn't have a meaningful choice about what to do. Meh, not for me.

[Buy Diamant at Amazon] [Buy Votes for Women at Amazon] [Buy Timeline Twist at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

  1. Posted by J Michael Cule at 12:11pm on 26 August 2023

    I don't disagree with you about VOTES FOR WOMEN (and I was the one who pushed it to the front of the queue) but how could one structure a game that's about a social and political movement that stretched across such a length of time?

    Abstracting it to impersonal forces seems as silly as taking the headline events and shuffling them.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 07:35pm on 27 August 2023

    I don't have an answer; I'm not a game designer, or a developer refining a design, bur rather a game player and occasional reviewer trying to pin down what does and doesn't work for me. Indeed, this whole "card-driven historical game" style (originally mostly wargames, now as we see spreading out a bit" frustrates me for similar reasons, but remains hugely popular, so there are clearly lots of people who disagree with me!

    That said I think my first impulse would be to have meters reflecting both the public mood and the internal politics of the organisations, and have constraints on how the cards are played depending on where the meters are. So if the suffragist movement turns out to be "obviously we only mean white women" that will make it less likely to have Sojourner Truth turning up, but at the same time it won't irk the racist South. (There's a hint of that specific element in the game itself, but I'd make this kind of balancing the main gameplay component.)

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